AFC vs NFC Pro Bowl 2019 Live updated their cover photo.
Bears Blither-Blather: Bowls upon Bowls upon Bowles
Patti Curl: So it looks like the Bears are enjoying their practices at the Professional Bowl. I have to wonder, which was the greater masterstroke of genius namesmanship: the pro bowl named after the fact that all invitees are pros, their seasons would make it on the favored side of a pro-con list and none of the participants are currently-incarcerated convicts, or the incredible self-control demonstrated by whoever managed to refrain from naming the big game the “Super Duper Bowl”?
Jeff Berckes: Wait, I thought the Pro Bowl was named after the Akron Pros, who won the first NFL championship in 1920, led by Fritz Pollard, to honor their achievement…
Anyway, never have liked the Pro Bowl game itself, and I’m not about to start now just because it’s dominated by Bears, but sign me up for all the mic’d up segments I can get. I’m not sure anyone is having more fun than Akiem Hicks and every little piece I get of these great Bears makes me long for September.
I think the skills competition starts to get us closer to a worthy event, but we need to add some new attractions. I’m inspired by those Brian Orakpo cupcake commercials – maybe a baking contest? Or how about a good old fashioned pie eating competition – you telling me that linemen wouldn’t enjoy that? Maybe we just steal from other sports – a dunk contest on a 9 foot hoop or a homerun derby with the batters box at 2nd base. I swear I’d watch something like that over a meaningless game where all anyone is hoping for is to get out healthy. Are you tuning in Sunday?
PC: I’ve got to tune in to make sure Biscuit slices up the tomatoes the AFC is putting out under the guise of a “Professional” defense. If Matthew Stafford can win a pro bowl mvp, I’m not ruling it out for Trubisky. But yes, baking, eating, singing, runway modeling, or charades competitions among pro bowlers would be more entertaining.
And Akiem Hicks should be mic’d up all the time. He should have a second mic on his belly so we can hear the crunch as he smoshes down on backfield offenders.
Speaking of Hicks wreaking havoc behind the line of scrimmage. How do you feel about the Bears new DC?
JB: I like the Pagano hiring as I believe his personality is going to fit right in with this group. It’s impossible to know for sure, but he’s reportedly a likable coach and Matt Nagy has established a fun organization. I was pretty excited about the possibility of Todd Bowles but the timing of everything with Elway taking his sweet time and Bruce Arians moving quickly put us onto plan B. What interested me about Bowles is that he can be creative & aggressive in his play calling, something that was lacking at times under Fangio. Pagano will hopefully bring some of those elements with him given his background in Baltimore. It seems to me the Bears defense has a chance to be even better with a fresh approach. The only thing that remains to be seen is what kind of defensive play caller he will be. As long as he doesn’t rush only 3, I think he’ll be fine.
I’ve given it some thought and as crazy as it sounds to some, I’m cheering for the Patriots next week. I’ve been fascinated with Bill Belichick for 20 years now and I’ve thought that he was making a final push for 1 last run. I love the symmetry of the 2 super bowl games against the Rams bookending their Sunday too. I say let’s see them capture one more and maybe Belichick or Brady walks away on top. Am I crazy for thinking that?
PC: I wouldn’t say crazy. I’d say sociopathic. Those Patriots have been league bullies for far too long and I want to see them fall in the worst way. I get the appeal of Belichick, but I find Brady’s smug little ego insufferable. I hope he drops a game-losing pass in an ill-advised QB-as-receiver trick play. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t hate your whole fantasy. The image of Brady riding off into the sunset sits just fine with me. He’s already flown too close to the sun, he may as well just dive the rest of the way in.
My fantasy for this game is that Sean McVay is outcoached by the Patriot’s defensive playcaller–who proceeds to lead the Dolphins to countless victories against the Patriots for years to come–and Jared Goff gets rattled early and often. Aaron Donald and Wade Philips have to save the day and it still takes a Julian Edelman muffed punt that stands and a missed pass-interference penalty on Robey-Coleman for the Rams to sneak out with the win. At the end of the day, I want Brady, Belichik, McVay, Goff, and NFL officials to all feel like losers.
Now I’m wondering if I come across as bitter. Do I seem bitter?
JB: Yes, but bitter seems like a better descriptor than sociopathic. Let’s just move past the SB and pretend like it doesn’t really matter and look ahead to what comes after. When the Patriots win their 6th ring next Sunday, the league turns over a new page to the 2019 season, thus kicking off the 100th year of the league and the 100th season for the Bears. (League year officially starts in March but stick with me)
I can think of nothing better than bringing home a championship to celebrate the centennial. It would only be the 2nd Super Bowl win but it would be the 10th league championship in 100 years for the Bears, led by the talented Mr. Biscuit who wears… #10. Much like the Patriots dynasty bookending their run with wins against the Rams, it feels like destiny that the Bears finish professional football’s first century with 10 championships. Plus, it would mean our Pro Bowlers would all need to skip the event to prepare for… the Cleveland Browns. Bears – Browns, Biscuit – Baker, SB LIV, February 2020. Book your Miami hotel now.
PC: This is making a lot of sense to me. Some things were meant to be, and the Bears were meant to dominate the league since the day they were graced with the opportunity to choose the best mascot possible. If Pagano can keep this defense in the top 5, year two of Nagy’s offense certainly has he potential to carry the Bears right into the Browns-Bears Super Bowl, which I will affectionately call the Brown Bear Bowl and eventually just the Grizzly Bowl. You’re making so much sense that I’m starting to regret calling your rooting interests sociopathic. Oh well, it’s too late now.
1. Trubisky watch
But Trubisky always is going to be a main attraction for Bears fans as they search for more fuel for their arguments about whether he is a star who can lead his own Super Bowl march or an inconsistent, middle-of-the-pack quarterback. Both arguments swirled around Trubisky during his second season.
What makes Sunday’s game all the more interesting is he’ll be facing off against two AFC quarterbacks — Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson — who were selected after him in the 2017 draft. As Mahomes racked up 50 touchdown passes and Watson topped 4,000 passing yards in leading the Chiefs and Texans to the playoffs, respectively, the comparisons with Trubisky from Bears fans abounded.
The Pro Bowl isn’t played at real intensity, and the quarterbacks won’t be running their offenses or throwing to their favorite targets. But that probably won’t stop everybody from passing judgment.
Trubisky, for his part, seemed to be having a great time staying in the moment this week.
“I want to have a lot of fun and try to soak up and learn anything I possibly can from the coaches, the other quarterbacks, from (NFC quarterback Russell Wilson),” Trubisky said. “We’re having a lot of fun. It’s all about getting better, enjoying this week and getting to know some guys.”
2. Formidable pair
No pair of teammates had more interceptions this regular season than the Bears’ Kyle Fuller and Eddie Jackson. Fuller tied for the NFL lead with seven in his fourth season on the field. Jackson was fourth with six and also scored three defensive touchdowns in his second season.
Jackson was goofing around when he told Bears teammate Josh Bellamy, who was posing as a reporter after practice Friday, that he would have two or more interceptions and one or more touchdowns in the game.
But it’s certainly possible the duo could be in line to make some big plays. Last year’s game featured four interceptions.
Jackson will return to the field for the first time since he missed the final two regular-season contests and the playoff game with a sprained ankle. Fuller will be celebrating his comeback over the last two seasons to become a highly valuable player for the Bears.
“It’s special,” Fuller said of having seven Bears players in the game. “It speaks to the type of year we had. … (The other teams’ players) definitely notice.”
3. A long time coming
The Bears defensive lineman felt snubbed because he wasn’t picked for the honor in 2017. But after totaling 7½ sacks, 12 tackles for loss and 16 quarterback hits and playing a major part in a run defense that was among the best in the league, he was selected this season.
“All these guys have to have a genuine love for the game of football because they’re playing at the highest level,” Hicks said. “To share that with other guys across the league is awesome.”
Amid all the fun he was having in Orlando this week, he noted he wanted to leave with one other thing — a sack in Sunday’s game.
4. Cohen does it all?
Tarik Cohen was selected as a return specialist for the NFC. But he’s hoping he can see some action in the game at running back or wide receiver too after he took practice reps on offense all week.
Cohen’s versatility — with 1,599 all-purpose yards this season — helped him earn his first Pro Bowl nod in his second season. He was all over the place this week — showing off his passing prowess during an NFL dart-board challenge, snapping photos with fans and going to a block party to play the video game Fortnite.
He promised to bring some excitement to the game too.
“I’m looking forward to having fun,” Cohen said. “Hopefully I can get some of my teammates out on the field with me, so I can give them the ball if I get it. I might throw a lateral here or there.”
5. Protecting Mitch
“He’s like, ‘What are you doing? Sleeping?’ ” Leno recalled. “’Yeah, I’m asleep.’ He’s like, ‘Well get up, you’re going to the Pro Bowl.’ ”
Whitehair and Leno were the final two Bears players to hear they had gone from alternates to Pro Bowlers early in the week. Trubisky said he “started going nuts” when he learned he would be joined in Orlando by his center and left tackle, and they could be lining up in front of him again Sunday.
“Those guys deserve it, protecting me all year, putting their bodies on the line every single Sunday for me,” Trubisky said. “For them to get the recognition they finally deserve, it’s awesome to see.”
While the players said they were enjoying getting to know the other all-stars from around the league, Leno also loved some of the familiarity he felt at practices during the week.
“It’s like the huddle again,” Leno said. “I’ve got Cody in the huddle saying huddle up, and you’ve got Tarik always dancing somewhere. Mitch is saying, ‘Get in the huddle guys. We have to get the play going.’ It’s just like practice.”